Brain reconstruction hints at dinosaur communication

T. rex and other dinos might have understood complex vocal calls

BIG MOUTH  Dinosaurs including T. rex (shown in an illustration) may have been able to communicate vocally, researchers suggest.

Sofia Santos/Shutterstock

SAN DIEGO — Dinosaur brains may have possessed the capacity for complex vocal communication, a new study hints.

Because brains are soft and break down quickly, dinosaurs left behind few clues about their brainpower. Neuroscientist Erich Jarvis of Duke University and colleagues worked around this problem by studying dinosaurs’ living relatives: birds. The team compared the brains of crocodiles, which evolved before dinosaurs, with the brains of birds, which descended from dinosaurs.

Crocodiles and birds both have complex brain regions that help sense other animals’ vocalizations, the team reported November 12 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Since birds and crocs both have these regions, dinosaurs probably did too, the scientists suggest.

That finding suggests that dinosaurs such as T. rex were capable of processing complex stimuli, such as sounds made by other dinosaurs. As for whether dinosaurs communicated with sound, Jarvis said their study can’t say for sure. “But all the structures are there.” 

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

More Stories from Science News on Neuroscience